A Live ECU Simulator for OBD2 Projects

If you are working with OBD2 hardware or software, it’s easy enough to access test data, simply plug into a motor vehicle with an OBD2 socket. If, however, you wish to test OBD2 software under all possible fault conditions likely to be experienced by an engine, you are faced with a problem in that it becomes difficult to simulate all faults on a running engine without breaking it. This led [Fixkick] to create an OBD2 simulator using a secondhand Ford ECU supplied with fake sensor data from an Arduino to persuade it that a real engine was connected.

The write-up is quite a dense block of text to wade through, but if you are new to the world of ECU hacking it offers up some interesting nuggets of information. In it there is described how the crankshaft and camshaft sensors were simulated, as well as the mass airflow sensor, throttle position, and speedometer sensors. Some ECU inputs require a zero-crossing signal, something achieved with the use of small isolating transformers. The result is a boxed up unit containing ECU and Arduino, with potentiometers on its front panel to vary the respective sensor inputs.

We’ve brought you quite a few OBD2 projects over the years, for example, there was this LED tachometer, and a way into GM’s OnStar.

Thanks [darkspr1te] for the tip.

3D Printed Jet Engine

In specific applications, jet engines are often the most efficient internal combustion engines available. Not just for airplanes, but for anything that needs to run on a wide variety of fuels, operate at a consistent high RPM, or run for an extended amount of time. Of course, most people don’t have an extra $4,000 lying around to buy a small hobby engine, but now there’s a 3D-printed axial compressor available from [noob_sauce].

As an aero propulsion engineer, [noob_sauce] is anything but a novice in the world of jet engines. This design is on its fourth iteration with a working model set to be tested by the end of the month. Additionally, [noob_sauce] created his own software that was necessary for the design of such a small, efficient jet engine which has all been made available on Git. So far the only part that has been completed has been the compressor stage of the engine, but it’s still a very impressive build that we don’t see too often due to the complexity and cost of axial compressor jet engines.

Of course, there are some less-complex jet engines that are available to anyone with access to a hardware store and a welder which don’t require hardly any precision at all. While they’re fun and noisy and relatively easy to build, though, they don’t have near the efficiency of a jet engine like this one. The build is impressive on its own, and also great that [noob_sauce] plans to release all the plans so that anyone can build one of these as well.

Casting Cylinder Heads Out Of JB Weld

Like friendship, JB Weld is magic. Rumors persist of shade tree mechanics in the Yukon repairing cracked engine blocks with JB Weld, and last month this theory was proved correct. [Project Farm] over on YouTube took a grinder to the head of a lawnmower engine, filled the gouge with JB Weld, and ran the engine for twenty minutes.

However, as with anything mechanical that doesn’t have a foul-mouthed Canadian in it, arguments ensued. ‘This was not a true test of JB Weld repairing a cracked engine block’, claimed Internet commenters, ‘I won’t even watch the video because the idea alone is click bait.’

Now, [Project Farm] is back at it. Is it possible to use JB Weld to cast an entire cylinder head for a lawnmower? It sure is. With a cast epoxy cylinder head, this engine will run for just long enough for a proof of concept.

This experiment began by casting a single monolithic block of JB Weld that’s a bit larger than the cylinder head for a lawnmower. After curing, this JB Brick was surfaced on both sides with a belt sander. No, there was no vacuum chamber or any other techniques used by people who work with epoxies for a living. With the brick surfaced, the head gasket was used to place the bolt holes, the brick was tapped for a spark plug, and a bit of the inside was Dremeled out for the valves.

After attaching the JB Weld cylinder head to a lawnmower, [Project Farm] ran the lawnmower for about a minute. Is this a proof of concept? Yes. Did it work? Absolutely. Is it the ultimate test of JB Weld and the myth of the cracked engine block? Unfortunately, no. For that, someone will have to build a real engine entirely out of JB Weld. Until then, just check out the video below.

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And the Grandfather of the Year Award Goes to…

Hacker dads often have great plans for all the fun projects they’ll build for their kids. Reality often intrudes, though, creating opportunities for hacker grandfathers who might have more time and resources to tackle the truly epic kid hacks. Take, for instance, [rwreagan] and the quarter-scale model railroad he built for his granddaughter.

Taking inspiration from a 1965 issue of Popular Mechanics, grandpa hit this one out of the park. Attention to detail and craftsmanship are evident from the cowcatcher to the rear coupler of this 4-2-0 steam engine replica, and everywhere along the 275 feet of wooden track — that’s almost a quarter-mile at scale. The locomotive runs on composite wood and metal flanged wheels powered by pair of 350-watt motors and some 12-volt batteries; alas, no steam. The loco winds around [rwreagan]’s yard through a right-of-way cut into the woods and into a custom-built engine house that’ll make a great playhouse. And there are even Arduino-controlled crossbucks at the grade crossing he uses for his tractor on lawn mowing days.

The only question here is: will his granddaughter have as much fun using it as he had building it? We’ll guess yes because it looks like a blast all around. Other awesome dad builds we’ve covered include this backyard roller coaster and a rocketship treehouse.

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JB Weld Fixes Cracked Cylinder Heads

There are persistent rumors that the main ingredient in JB Weld is magic. This two-part epoxy that you would normally find on a shelf next to your basic 5-minute epoxy, Titebond, various cyanoacrylates, and Gorilla glue is somehow different. Stories of ‘some guy’ in the Yukon using JB Weld on a cracked engine block abound. These stories are of course met with skepticism.

Now, finally, we have evidence you can use JB Weld to fix an engine. [Project Farm] over on YouTube gave it the ultimate test: he took the cylinder head off a lawnmower, took a grinder to the head, and patched the hole with JB Weld. The head had good compression, and the engine actually ran for 20 minutes before the test was concluded.

If this were a test of a field repair, it would be a test of an extremely crappy field repair. [Project Farm] made no attempt to ensure the piston didn’t make contact with the blob of JB Weld, and in fact, there was some slight knocking from the piston tapping against a blob of epoxy. Still, this repair worked.

While this serves as proof of the feasibility of repairing an engine block with JB Weld, there is one ultimate test of JB Weld epoxy: build an engine out of it. For years, I’ve been casting my leftover JB Weld into a small square plastic container. In a few more years, I’ll have a block of JB Weld ‘stock’, large enough to machine the parts for a small (.049 cc) glow engine, like what you would find in ye olde tymie model planes and cars. Will it work? I have no idea, but now I can’t wait to find out.

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Easy Free Piston Stirling Engine

Stirling engines are really cool machines, invented by Reverend Dr. Robert Stirling in 1816 to rival the steam engine, they are one of the most efficient engines ever conceived.  Building one is a very rewarding experience, but it has a certain level of difficulty. However, [Attila Blade]’s version of a free-piston type Stirling engine is simple enough to be built in a matter of minutes.

To build the engine you only need a test tube, steel wool, a latex glove, an O ring and some wire. The construction is straightforward as you can see in the video. The whole engine rocks on the wire frame which also makes it different to most other Stirling engines that you can watch on the net. The free piston is just one type of several possible configurations for a Stirling. The most common one, is the beta type, usually made with soda cans, but it is much more difficult to build than [Attila Blade]’s engine.

This is definitely a fun project that you may want to try, and is also a great way to learn  thermodynamics concepts. Even if you don’t build this particular version, there are many other possibilities using mainly household items, or you can also check the very interesting history behind the Stirling engine.

 

Toy Car Pumps the Wheels with Balloon Power

We’ve had our eye on [Greg Zumwalt]. He’s been working on some very clever 3D-printed mechanisms and his latest prototype is an air engine for a toy car. You can supply the air for the single cylinder with a compressor, or by blowing into it, but attaching an inflated balloon makes the system self-contained.

Last week we saw the prototype of the engine by itself, and wondered if this had enough power to drive a little train engine. We were almost right as here it is powering the front wheels of a little car.

This isn’t [Greg’s] first rodeo. He’s been working on self-contained locomotion for a while now. Shown here is his spring-driven car which you pull backwards to load the spring. It’s a common feature in toys, and very neat to see with the included 3D-printed spring hidden inside of the widest gear.

That print looks spectacular, but the balloon-powered prototype tickles our fancy quite a bit more. Make sure you have your sound on when you watch the video after the break. It’s the chuga-chuga that puts this one over the top. [Greg] hasn’t yet posted files so you can print your own (it’s still a prototype) but browse the rest of his designs as you wait — they’re numerous and will bring an even bigger smile to your face. Remember that domino-laying LEGO bot [Matthias Wandel] built a few years back? [Greg] has a printable model for it!

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